Monday with Mike Fox

After losing their first series in nearly two years, the Tar Heels are now ranked No. 5 in this week's Baseball America Top 25. Inside Carolina caught up with head coach Mike Fox on Monday for an exclusive interview ...

Week in Review
Tue. 3/17 - UNC 17 Princeton 0
Wed. 3/18 - UNC 6 Princeton 1
Fri. 3/20 - UNC 8 Duke 5
Sat. 3/21 - Duke 5 UNC 4
Sun. 3/22 - Duke 10 UNC 9

The recently top-ranked Tar Heels were stunned this past weekend by a resurgent Duke baseball team that handed UNC its first regular season series loss since 2007. In the warm-up to this series, the Tar Heels throttled Ivy League opponent Princeton – coached by former Tar Heel baseball legend Scott Bradley.

Sophomore Matt Harvey was torched by the Duke batters on Saturday with a two-out rally that plated seven Blue Devils. Harvey set a personal career record giving up seven earned runs. The Tar Heels battled back after trailing by eight runs in the Sunday finale but could not catch the Devils.

Junior third baseman Kyle Seager is on an 11-game hitting streak, while batting .427 for the season in addition to being a perfect 6-6 in stolen base attempts. Senior outfielder Garrett Gore struggled this week with the bat – batting .190 and only scoring one run while driving in four. Junior outfielder Mike Cavasinni started to show some a little at the plate – batting .263 for the week – scoring five runs and reaching base at a .368 clip. This begs the question: If or when Dustin Ackley moves to the outfield, who will be the odd man out of the lineup?

Freshman outfielder Seth Baldwin starred in his first collegiate start at designated hitter – going 4 for 5 with a pair of home runs while batting in six runs Friday. He started the next game at designated hitter and ended up going hitless and striking out three times.

UNC will send right-hander Bryant Gaines (3-0, 2.95 ERA) to the mound on Tuesday at UNC-Wilmington, and then right-hander Ryan Leach (0-0, 5.06 ERA) will make his first career start Wednesday against Charlotte.

This Week's Schedule
Tue. 3/23 - @ UNCW - 7 pm
Wed. 3/24 - Charlotte - 6 pm
Fri. 3/26 - Virginia - 7 pm
Sat. 3/27 - Virginia - 3 pm
Sun. 3/28 - Virginia - 1 pm

Tell me about your impressions of the recently completed Duke series...
I thought Duke played extremely well. There were three different games, really, but I think that the middle game that we lost both teams tried to give it away. We played poor defense and that ended up being our downfall especially against Wolcott - he was not going to beat himself and he threw a lot of strikes.

Yesterday was one of those games where we fell behind early - which is uncharacteristic of us. I was just proud of our team for putting ourselves in a position to win the game late, but we could not get a big two-out hit late in the game when we needed it or a big swing of the bat the last two or three innings. Close games - that is the way that it is in this league - and you have to bounce back and now we have five very tough games this week.

You've got two in-state teams hungry for their shot at North Carolina and then Virginia, which has to be angry losing their first two games late against Miami after being undefeated heading into that series...
Absolutely, it does not get any easier - that is for sure. When you find yourself in this kind of situation you find out about your team. You lose a series at home in this league it is something you can not afford to do. You have got to rebound. I like our team. Our kids play hard and have confidence in each other. That is really all I can ask. You can play well and still lose, but I think the disappointing thing for me was that on Saturday we just did not play well enough to win really against anybody and certainly not against a Duke team that is playing very well and is swinging the bat very well.

Can you talk about the Duke two-out rally against Matt Harvey in the second inning on Sunday...
Mostly it was him just missing his spots - he left the ball up and they took advantage of it. I think the hitting by Duke was contagious. Tthey impressed me greatly with the way they swung the bat in really all three games probably as well as anyone has hit against us in the past couple of years including every game we have played. Every time Matt made a mistake they made him pay for it. They hit the big three-run home run, then their center fielder hit his first home run [of his career] - gets one up and it goes out. It is just one of those things, you know, it happens. We will try to get Matt back out in a game as soon as we possibly can - who knows, perhaps even tomorrow against Wilmington if he is ready.

Can you address the importance of minimizing mistakes while taking advantage of opportunities presented by your opponents?
When you are down like that you kind of need a little bit of help from the other team. You either need some walks in there or an error. When you are eight runs behind it is really difficult to score all those runs on your own. It was uncharacteristic of Duke - they have been leading the nation in defense and think they had only made nine errors all year long until this series. They did open the door for us and we got guys in scoring position. Our problem on Saturday was that we got a guy on third base four times with less than two outs and did not score. Then we had a couple of situations yesterday where just that one hit could get us over the hump and we could not do it. Hitting a guy with the bases loaded for their tenth run took a little bit of wind out of our sails, too. That will happen in a close game - you can go back and replay one-run games in your head until it drives you crazy. We will just put this behind us and move forward.

Kyle Seager bounced back from his game in the field on Saturday and he's had a hot start with the bat this season...
Kyle is a terrific player. He is just really a terrific player. He takes a lot of pride in every part of his game. He had some tough plays on Saturday, some pressure plays. Making a short throw to the plate with a guy trying to score - we work on those, but he is always ready. I know he would like to have that one at bat back in the eighth inning where the bases were loaded with two outs and he went after a pitch just a little bit out of the strike zone. He has been a terrific player for us and will have a great year. He is already having a great year for us.

Nate Striz got some valuable innings late in the game on Sunday. Have you and Coach Forbes discussed getting him more work out of the bullpen?
We have got to get Nate in there - we were very impressed with him. He came in there with a lot of confidence. He got behind [Duke's Nate] Freiman 2-0, then he just kind of cheated on a fastball and hit a double down the line - after that I thought Nate was aggressive. We have got to continue to develop our bullpen and get some depth in there. We were impressed with Nate yesterday how he came in the game and his approach.

Talk with UNC baseball fans on Inside Carolina's Diamond Heels Message Board
Can you tell me about your philosophy this year about how you use the DH position?
I think we probably have a four- or five-headed monster at DH. Each one of those guys brings something a little different to the position. Whether it is speed or power, hitting against lefties or righties, we are just trying to give all of them opportunities. I thought that Brett Thomas, after not having a live at bat, stepped in there and has had some great at bats for us. No one has stepped in there and taken the position and grabbed it. I like where we are, each of those guys have a role and sometimes it is my gut and sometimes it is who I want to be able to bring off of the bench. We want to put them in the best position that we can to have some success. They are all competing a little bit. Who knows, we might continue with this squad or someone might step in there and take the role - again they all have different attributes they bring us and we are trying to use those as best we can.

Earlier in the week you discussed confidence in Mark Fleury at making snap throws controlling the runners - is that something he has been working on in practice?
Not particularly - we don't have a whole lot of time for practice once the season gets going on. We go about 90 minutes on Thursday to get ready for the weekend and Monday is our off day. I think Mark worked on that in the fall and I think his arm feels better over the weekend as it is getting warmer. Mark has got the capability of doing that - he has good quick feet and a good release. I think our opponents have only stolen 11 bases off of us this year and we want to keep that number down as best we can. Catchers throwing behind runners prevents them from getting that big secondary lead. Mark does a good job on that.


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